Conrad Bennish sat in his former classroom looking for answers. He pulled out his timer and tried to convince himself that it could be fixed. But it was no use.
Then, the vortex opened outside. It was so bright and beautiful that he couldn't pull his eyes from it. This was his chance.
His luck was finally starting to turn.
The sliders landed outside California University. Rembrandt, as usual, landed directly on top of Arturo. When he got up, he was ready to scream. But when he realized where he was, he instantly felt better.
"Well, considering that this might be our last slide in San Francisco, I am glad I will spend it in my old teaching grounds," Arturo said. "The place is still beautiful, on each and every world."
"Sure, Professor," Quinn said, disinterested.
"Well, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said. "Of course I enjoy working with you, but sometimes I miss the power over the world I had when I was a university professor."
"Power?" Rembrandt asked.
"True power," Arturo said, smiling.
"Guys," Wade said, looking at the school. "It looks like that guy saw us."
Conrad Bennish opened the window to the school room, and he was now running towards the group.
"Bennish," Quinn said, surprised. "How do we explain this one?"
"No need to explain," Bennish said. "You are sliders, right?"
Quinn was surprised. First, that Bennish knew about sliding. And second, because there was no way that Bennish could've heard what he had said.
"Yes, Mr. Bennish," Arturo said, feeling the need to be honest.
"That must be your timer," Bennish said, reaching towards Quinn's hand.
"Yes," Quinn said, pulling his hand back.
"Could you help me fix mine?" Bennish asked.
"I'm sure that can be arranged," Quinn said. "What do you need us to do?"
"Hold tight," Bennish said, running back to the school.
Quinn was highly skeptical. He had never known Bennish to be so polite without an ulterior motive. He was up to something but what?
Five minutes later, Bennish emerged from the school with timer in hand.
"Sorry, dudes," he said. "I had something to take care of. But I'm ready to get going now!"
Quinn was sure that Bennish was planning something, so he decided to help so that he could find out what.
While Quinn looked on with a watchful eye, Arturo was surprised at Bennish's scientific ability. He was willing to accept that, perhaps, this Bennish was different. But Quinn knew better.
Bennish was a rat on every single world.
"This is extraordinary!" Arturo said, with a large smile on his face. "Mr. Bennish, your timer is almost identical to our own."
Quinn was even shocked by that. Bennish had done almost exactly what it had taken both he and Arturo a year to complete. That, in itself, was almost enough to accept Bennish as an intellectual equal. But something wasn't right.
Arturo, Quinn, and Bennish worked quickly on the timer because the group wanted to get to Los Angeles as soon as possible. But Quinn just wanted to get Bennish on his way as fast as he could. But the more they were together, the more Quinn was impressed. Maybe this Bennish was different.
If sliding had taught him anything, it was that anything is possible. But this?
"Well, Mr. Bennish, that should just about do it," Arturo said, as the power came back on on Bennish's timer. "It's amazing how similar our timers are."
"Well, great minds think alike," Bennish said with a twisted smile. "Right, Professor?"
"Some things never change," Arturo said, looking over at Quinn. "Do they Mr. Mallory?"
Quinn smiled, but he was just glad to be done. Something about the whole situation just seemed wrong.
The group walked down the street towards the bus station. On the way, Wade saw a sign for a garage sale.
"Hey, look at that!" Wade said, trying to break the silence. "They misspelled 'garage'."
The sign clearly read "garege."
"Its simply a typo, Ms. Welles," Arturo said, thinking nothing of it. "Now, shall we venture to the City of Angels, Mr. Mallory?"
"No," Quinn said, disturbed. "I don't like this place. Let's leave ASAP; we'll get there next slide."
"I agree," Wade said. "A world where Bennish created the timer can't be too good."
"Plus," Rembrandt said. "This city's getting to me, again. I don't think I've said good-bye to her yet."
"So, it's settled," Arturo said, smiling. "We're staying."
The group decided to spend the slide in a nearby park. They just decided to relax and have fun. Quinn and Rembrandt even took part in a flag football game to take their mind off their sliding lives.
The six hour limit approached, and Quinn was ready to leave. He opened the vortex, but as soon as he did, his face turned cold.
"What is it, Q-Ball?" Rembrandt said, noticing Quinn.
"It didn't beep," Quinn said, looking down at the timer and back at Rembrandt. "It always beeps."
"Well, we can't sit around worrying about that, Mr. Mallory," Arturo said. "We have to go!"
The four sliders jumped into the vortex. Inside, all Quinn could think about was the timer. He wasn't ready to slide blind.
The vortex opened on the other side. All the sliders landed, and rushed to Quinn's side.
"No!" Quinn said, hanging his head. He pinched himself on his leg, making sure that he wasn't having a nightmare.
The timer was counting down from 24 minutes.
"We reset it," Quinn said softly. "I can't believe it. We reset it."
"The coordinates?" Arturo said, hoping it wasn't a total system failure.
Quinn optimistically checked, but dropped the timer as soon as he did.
"Gone," Quinn said, dropping his head to the ground.
Quinn felt the worst for Rembrandt. He joined this adventure trusting that Quinn and Arturo could safely get him to his friends. Now, only a couple months into the slide, all their advantages were gone.
"What do we do now?" Rembrandt said.
"Slide," Quinn said, desperately wanting to give Rembrandt a hopeful answer. "There's nothing else to do."
They walked down the street, frantically hoping they weren't on The Seer's world. Wade noticed something familiar, however.
"Look at that," Wade said.
It was a sign. The same sign with the word "garage" misspelled.
"It's nothing," Arturo said. "It's simply a coincidence."
Rembrandt didn't think so.
"That the same family could make the exact flyer on the same day with the same mistake on two different worlds?" Rembrandt asked, skeptical.
"As strange as it sounds, Mr. Brown," Arturo said. "Yes. Now, it appears we have a bigger problem."
The timer counted down to zero, and the vortex opened. The sliders, once again, dove into the vortex.
They emerged from it, again. This time, they only had twelve minutes.
"Twelve minutes," Quinn said, angry at his luck. "Not only can't we get to LA, but we don't even have enough time to get some food or some rest. It's only been one slide, and I'm already tired of this!"
Quinn was just frustrated. All his hard work had led them to nothing. He was back at square one, and he hated it.
"I don't believe it!" Rembrandt said, staring at a nearby telephone pole.
"There may be merit to your claim, Ms. Welles," Arturo said, shocked
Quinn looked up, and was alarmed. On the pole was the same sign. The same misspelled sign for a garage sale.
"This is scaring me," Wade said.
Quinn had a strange thought. Strange enough to be true, though.
"Wait!" Quinn said, attracting the attention of the other sliders. "Maybe this is the same world."
"Wait, Q-Ball," Rembrandt said. "How can this be the same Earth? What about all this sliding we've been doing?
"I don't know," Quinn said. "I'll have to take this thing apart and find out."
Arturo didn't like always having to be the voice of reason, but he felt he had to speak up here.
"And what happens if it is a coincidence?" Arturo said. "Then we will be here for a while."
"A coincidence?" Quinn said. "Are you serious?"
"We've seen stranger things," Arturo said. "If parallel worlds branch off each other, worlds can be surprisingly similar. We could simply have landed on a line of worlds with a different spelling of the word 'garage.'"
Quinn knew it might be true.
"So what do you suggest we do?" Quinn asked. "Slide again?"
"I believe that could be the best course of action," Arturo said. "Just to be sure because none of us would like the consequences if you are mistaken."
"I can't believe this!" Quinn said. "But you're probably right. One more time."
Remmy was holding the timer and began to get nervous.
"Guys," Rembrandt said. "If we're going to leave, we better do it soon because, well, here we go."
Rembrandt opened the vortex, and stood in place. Neither he nor Wade wanted to make a move until Quinn and Arturo came to a similar conclusion.
Quinn looked over at the Professor. It was just a sign for a garage sale. Could this just be Quinn, hoping that resetting the timer was just a mistake? If so, he didn't want to endanger the others.
"One more time," Quinn said. "Just to be sure."
Quinn ran and jumped inside the vortex, and the three others followed him before the vortex collapsed.
On the other side, the sliders ran off towards the pole with the garage sale sign. He had to be sure.
Wade and Arturo looked on, while Remmy looked at the timer. It read three minutes.
"Q-Ball better hurry," Rembrandt said. Because we've only got a couple minutes left here."
Arturo looked worriedly at the timer. But a minute later, Quinn walked towards them holding the sign. The same misspelled sign.
"Still a coincidence?" Quinn said, and Rembrandt and Wade stared at the Professor.
He was speechless. There was still the possibility of a coincidence due to the branched world theory, but they were now stretching it. Especially if they were sliding randomly.
Rembrandt looked down and watched the numbers count down. He didn't ask what to do, he just watched. When it reached zero, something odd happened.
"Q-Ball?" Rembrandt said, handing the timer to Quinn. "Is this supposed to happen?"
The timer reset to 2 minutes.
"I have to look at it," Quinn said. "But in a word, no."
The group rushed back to the school, to the same classroom Bennish was in earlier. The tools they had used to fix Bennish's timer were still there, and Quinn used them to take the timer apart.
Within minutes, he knew what had happened.
"Its remarkable!" Arturo said. "This timer has the same structure, the same design, and most of the same parts, but it lacks the most important piece that allows for interdimensional travel."
Despite the circumstances, Arturo was happy to see that they hadn't reset the timer. But Quinn wasn't sure what they were going to do.
"What does that mean?" Wade asked.
"This can't take us to parallel earths," Arturo said. "It is lacking components, and requires much more power to break through the interdimensional rift."
"Hold on," Rembrandt said, trying to make the situation clear. "We slid before."
"Yeah," Wade said. "What happened there?"
"Think of the vortex as a river, Ms. Welles," Arturo said. "The normal timer is like a boat, and it allows us to cross the river. However, this timer is like a boat with a hole in the floor. It can put us in the river, but it does not have the ability to get us across the river."
"So, what happened?" Wade said, still unclear.
"The timer simply opened a vortex, but when not enough power was produced, it sent us back to this world," Arturo said. "It's a teleportation device, more or less. It probably has a small 'sliding radius', which explains why we landed near the same location every time."
"So what do we do?" Rembrandt asked "Fix this timer?"
"That would be our last choice," Quinn said. "I can fix this timer, but its going to be weaker than my original prototype."
"So, what do we do?" Wade asked.
"We have to find our timer," Quinn said.
"Wait," Rembrandt said. "Our timer?"
"Yes, Mr. Brown," Arturo said. "Mr. Bennish replaced our timer with his own."
"Now," Quinn said. "He has no reason to think that the timer can open before it reaches zero, so we have about a day and a half to find him.
"Where do we look?" Wade asked.
"I'm going to stay here and work on this piece of junk," Quinn said. "If we're stuck with it, I'm going to have to do some major work on it. Professor, you look around campus. Bennish might've been stupid enough to stick around here.
"What do you want us to do?" Wade asked.
"You guys search the city," Quinn said. "Ask around to see if anyone has seen him. I know it'll be a daunting task, but I don't know what else to do. We'll meet up in an hour or two we don't find anything."
Arturo didn't believe that Bennish would be stupid enough to stay at the university, but he assumed that he could find a clue to where Bennish had gone.
As he was walking, a young man waved at him.
"Hello, Professor Arturo," the man said.
"Hello, my good man," Arturo responded, curious.
The man seemed to expect more from the Professor, and he seemed disappointed.
"You don't remember me, Professor?" the man asked.
"Sorry," Arturo said. "I'm not feeling well. Tell me again."
"I'm Charles Burke," the man said, but Arturo still looked confused. "Your student."
"Sorry Charles," Arturo said. "Like I said, I am not feeling well today, and it seems to have impacted my memory."
"That's cool, Professor," Charles said. "Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"Actually," Arturo said, smiling. "Could you do me a favor?"
"Anything, Professor," Charles said.
"Where does Conrad Bennish live?"
Remmy and Wade walked along the streets. They had asked around, but nobody knew who Bennish was.
"This is hopeless," Wade said. "How are we going to find one guy in this town?"
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. "We don't even know that he stayed in San Francisco. He could have gone to Oakland, or he could've even left the state."
They had one last option. The police. Depending on how long he had been on this world, he could have a record. It was worth a shot.
On the way to the police station, Wade and Remmy passed an electronics store. Wade stopped, as if something bothered her, and ran inside.
"Wade!" Rembrandt screamed. "We don't have time for this!"
Rembrandt ran inside and found Wade, watching a television. On it, there was an artist's sketch of Bennish, with a number on it.
"Finally some luck, huh?" Wade said, excited to contribute. She hadn't done much work for the group, and she was ecstatic any chance she could.
"You're good, girl!" Rembrandt said, grabbing a pen to write down the number.
Charles took Arturo to a small home in a suburban neighborhood.
Arturo knocked on the door, and it slowly opened. He ignored common sense and carefully walked inside. He was immediately met by a dark figure who obviously had a gun in his hand.
"Not smart," the figure said ominously.
Wade was on the phone with the FBI. They were looking for Bennish, who they claimed was a suspect of a double murder.
A car came by and picked up Wade and Rembrandt, taking them to a van a block away from Bennish's house.
"Mr. Brown, Ms. Welles," an FBI agent said. "Thank you for your assistance. Now, what did you say Bennish would do?"
Rembrandt and Wade looked at each other. They had no choice but to tell the authorities the truth. If they wanted help from the FBI, they were going to have to give information themselves.
"He took our timer," Rembrandt said. "It is a machine that can take us to alternate dimensions."
"And it works?" the FBI agent asked.
This worried Rembrandt. It seemed like this world knew of sliding, and that usually wasn't a good sign. But they had already gone this far.
"Yes," Rembrandt said.
"This is classified, but you probably know more than we do, so it's probably safe to tell you," the agent said. "Our government has been working on a way to travel to parallel dimensions. Could you help us?"
There was the catch. But although Rembrandt was cautious, he didn't see any harm in helping them.
"I'm sure our friends would love to help," Rembrandt said. "But we don't have a lot of time."
"Don't worry, Mr. Brown," the agent said. "The office said that we'll get the warrant any minute now."
"A warrant?" Rembrandt said.
"Of course," the agent said. "You have to have a warrant to make any arrest."
"God," Rembrandt thought. "I never thought bureaucratic tape could get any worse. But I was wrong."
Inside the house, Arturo was trying to reason with Bennish.
"You cannot do this, Mr. Bennish," Arturo said softly. "Turn yourself in, and you will get a soft sentence."
"Not when I have this baby," Bennish said, holding the timer up with his other hand. "I'm going to travel throughout the multiverse until I find a place where I belong."
Bennish started to mess with the timer.
"What did you do, Mr. Bennish?" Arturo asked, trying to keep him occupied.
BENNISH "Well," Bennish said. "Quinn and I were working on a timer, and it was a big success. I mean, it was awesome! He traveled to an alternate Earth, and came back with all these cool artifacts. We were made!"
"We were going to split the credit," Bennish continued. But he wanted to 'donate' the timer to the scientific community. He said it was 'for the good of humanity' or some BS like that." "Greed," the Professor thought. "It always comes down to greed."
"I stole the prototype from his basement," Bennish said. "But I guess he must have expected it because he took away some very key components. I tried to fix it, but I just couldn't get it to work right. So, I confronted Quinn, but one thing led to another and I killed him and his father."
"You need to accept the consequences of your actions, Mr. Bennish," Arturo said.
"I just want to leave, man," Bennish said. "Time will heal my wounds."
Arturo could've continued the moral debate, but he didn't want to upset Bennish. He just let sleeping dogs lie.
In the van, Remmy decided to call Quinn. In times like this, they usually had to make a quick getaway, and he didn't want to be separated. But he couldn't reach the Professor.
Where was he?
Arturo looked at the timer in Bennish's hand.
"You know you can't stall for a whole day," Arturo said, trying to convince Bennish to give up more quickly.
"Oh, Professor," Arturo said. "Don't insult me like that. I am simply going to open the vortex early. I'm just waiting for the right time."
Arturo was worried. Bennish was unstable, and if he wasn't careful, he would ruin everything they had worked to accomplish.
Quinn showed up at the van, just when the FBI was preparing to rush into the house. Rembrandt had told them that he would try to help them immediately.
"Okay, what do you need me to do?" Quinn asked, ready to help.
"Mr. Mallory, thanks for your help," the agent said. "This technology could save our world, and we really need it to work."
Quinn was skeptical. He had helped other worlds before, but their aims had been much more deceitful.
"The press doesn't know this," the agent continued. "But our resources are almost out. Gas is almost $5 a gallon, but we're covering our butts, blaming it on a conflict in the Middle East. We're just hoping that we can trade with an alternate world."
Quinn felt the need to warn the agent.
"Be sure you handle that carefully," Quinn said. "I've seen a good share of worlds where interdimensional trading has gone awry."
The agent nodded. Quinn didn't know if their aims were true, but he needed to fulfill his end of the bargain.
"I've been working on this," Quinn said, pulling Bennish's timer out of his front pocket. "Its nothing special, but it should point your scientists in the right direction."
Quinn handed the agent the timer, along with a piece of scratch paper.
"I wrote this on the way over," Quinn continued. "Just a few things I've learned while sliding. Trust me; they'll help you."
"Will do," the agent said, just as the raid was beginning.
As the FBI officers prepared for the invasion, Bennish's door swung wide open. And Bennish emerged, holding Arturo at gunpoint.
"Look at this," Bennish said, laughing and acting like a celebrity. "I, Conrad Bennish, have conquered sliding. Watch!"
Bennish opened the vortex, took a bow, and he dove inside before the officers opened fire.
"Come on, come on!" Arturo screamed, calling the other sliders to the vortex. "It is our only chance!"
Arturo jumped into the vortex, followed quickly by Wade and Rembrandt. Quinn, still in the van, looked at the agent.
"Sorry I can't help, but I have a plane to catch," Quinn said with a smile. "Good luck!"
Quinn ran towards the vortex, but the agent stopped him.
"What about Bennish?" the agent screamed.
Quinn thought for a second, before turning back towards the agent.
"Clear out the jail," Quinn said, smiling. "We'll be back with him in six hours."
He jumped into the vortex, and it closed seconds later.
On the next world, Bennish flew out of the vortex, and the gun and timer flew from his hand. Arturo landed directly on Bennish, and he quickly pinned him to the ground.
Rembrandt landed, and he quickly ran towards the timer and gun as Wade and Quinn exited the vortex.
"Man!" Bennish screamed "Get off me!"
When he realized that Rembrandt had the gun and the timer, Arturo let Bennish up.
"All right, Bennish," Rembrandt said. "It's over!"
"What a wild ride!" Bennish screamed. "Well, at least its over."
"I don't think so, Bennish," Quinn said. "You still have one more trip."
"What do you mean, bro?" Bennish said, cleaning off his glasses.
"Yeah," Wade said, concerned. "We aren't taking him with us, are we?"
"Yes," Quinn said. "We're taking him back to his world. Where he belongs."
"You realize that this will take time away from our journey," Arturo said.
"Yes, Professor," Quinn said, looking directly at Bennish. "But it's the right thing to do."
Six hours later, the vortex opened on Bennish's world, right where they had left.
Bennish tried to run away when they landed, but Rembrandt stopped him before he could get anywhere.
"If you want to run to the police station," Quinn said, recovering from the slide. "We can do that."
"Yeah," Rembrandt said. "Some of us could use the exercise."
"Be quiet, Mr. Brown," Arturo said, causing the rest of the group to explode in laughter.
"Well," Quinn said. "You guys take Bennish to the police. I have some work to do."
"Work?" Rembrandt asked.
"Yeah," Quinn said. "I have to introduce this world to sliding."
Quinn smiled as he walked off to the local bureau.